1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-1, 1-0)
Bad Guys: Kansas State Wildcats (2-2, 0-1)
When: Saturday, October 8th at 6:00 pm
Where: Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium; Manhattan, Kansas
TV/Stream: ESPNU (ESPN Apps)
Radio/Stream: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
2. Uniform Tracker
|Stephen F. Austin||W, 69-17|
|Arizona State||L, 68-55|
|Louisiana Tech||W, 59-45|
3. The Big Storyline
This week, I joined Bring On The Cats for some podcasting and they asked me what I thought about Kliff Kingsbury being the coolest or most suave coach in the Big 12. I don’t blame them, but it is strange that after three years, that perception has stuck, that first year perception. The “swaggy” coach that burst on the scene.
I explained to them that truthfully, Kingsbury is more like Bill Snyder than probably anyone else. He gets to the field house at 4:30 a.m., probably stays late and lives there for 24/7 each day. The son of a Marine and school teacher and I’d guess that Kingsbury and Snyder have more in common than probably more folks. Oh, sure, Kingsbury still likes the nice suits and the big watches, but I think at his core, Kingsbury and Snyder are incredibly similar.
And I keep thinking about those things as I go back as to how this team goes about beating Kansas State this weekend. There is nothing flashy about what K-State does, other than the fact that the defense actually is incredibly good. I didn’t have a ton of time to watch the game, but I have watched a bunch of highlights and it appears that the Wildcats are exactly what you would think they would be, which is that they are pretty simplistic in terms of the pass rush and coverage, it’s nothing exotic, but it is executed incredibly well.
It seemingly comes down to whether or not the offensive line can protect Patrick Mahomes, or most likely Nic Shimonek, and whether or not the quarterback can lead what appears to be one of the more efficient offenses in the country. I don’t know what to make of Shimonek because I simply just haven’t seen him play enough. The half that we did see him, it’s awfully encouraging and you would think that Shimonek’s quick strike nature would play exactly into what you would want to do on offense, but I have no doubt that Kansas State is going to flood the middle of the field, they’ve got the linebackers and secondary to do that. That’s the one thing that always confounds spread quarterbacks is how to find open receivers when there’s not much time.
Shimonek will have to figure out how to combat that and would envision that screens will be a big player until the middle of the field relents. Kansas wasn’t ready for the seam routes that Shimonek exploited, but Kansas State will be ready. Offensively, the intel about Kansas State’s offense is that they are incredibly inconsistent, in particular Jesse Ertz, who just isn’t the passer that they thought he would be. The question will be whether or not Kansas State decides to throw the ball or if they can be patient enough and consistent enough to just run the danged ball play after play. Somewhat like West Virginia did last year, but I don’t know if Snyder can avoid being somewhat balanced. Even last week, Ertz was 10 of 30 and Kansas State only ran the ball 42 times. They were running against a very tough West Virginia defense that only allowed 120 yards on 42 carries, that’s some stout defense.
The bottom line is that I hope that the team channels their inner Snyder, or Kingsbury in our case. I mean, they’re basically the same guy, including but not limited to the hand-written notes they each like to pen.
4. One Key Stat
Kansas State is 86th in penalties per game at 7 and 42nd in the nation with near 50 yards per game. Meanwhile, Texas Tech is tied for 123rd in the nation with 9.75 penalties per game and 113th in the nation at 75.25 penalty yards per game. That’s terrible.
5. What to Watch on Offense
K-State’s offense is multiple, but I think they generally love to have this type of set-up, which is to run with a tight end, a fullback, which has become increasingly important this year, a running back and two wideouts. Essentially what you’re looking at is a 21 personnel, 2 running backs and a tight end. The thing that will be interesting to see how Texas Tech lines up is whether or not Gibbs will isolate those cornerbacks with the receivers and just run with one safety deep with the other safety giving support in the run. Given how Ertz has struggled passing the ball, I might take my chances. However, Ertz has also passed much better at home than on the road. It’s a small sample size at this point, but it’s worth noting.
A similar look, but it’s really 20 personnel, notice the fullback again and I think there’s another wide receiver somewhere, probably at the bottom of the screen. This play is actually a pretty neat play-action to the fullback with the quarterback running to his right and a wide open receiver (notice the cushion here, 12 yards and it’s 2nd and 10, a pretty obvious passing play). I think if Ertz throws the ball, there will be opportunities for picks, but the cornerback is going to have to make that play. The safeties will be bottled up in the line of scrimmage for a good part of the game.
The leading rusher for Kansas State is Ertz, the quarterback, who runs about 10 times per game, averages about 4.5 yards per carry and has 2 touchdowns. Charles Jones is the leading running back and has the same number of carries as Ertz, 37, but has about 160 yards on the season and averages about 40 yards a game, 4.3 yards per rush and has just 1 touchdown. The surprising statistic is that Winston Dimel, the son of offensive coordinator Dana Dimel has 6 touchdowns on just 13 carries. Dimel is essentially a touchdown machine.
Ertz is inconsistent at best. Against Missouri State, Ertz was 7 of 8 for 94 yards and had 2 touchdowns. I figure that’s what Kansas State would like to do, just run the danged ball and Ertz supplements the passing game on occasion. For the year, Ertz has completed just 48% of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Ertz is more dangerous running the ball more than anything else and he’s a load and won’t shy away from contact.
Dominque Heath (5-9/175) is the leading receiver with just 10 catches for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns. Byron Pringle (6-2/205) and Deante Burton (6-2/209) both average 17 yards a catch and these are your guys that will stretch the field. I get the impression that Heath is the inside receiver and somewhat of a safety net for Ertz. The funny thing here is that Pringle only catches 33% of the passes thrown his way, Heath only catches 56% and Burton only catches 58%. That’s not exactly stellar and that may be part of the problem with Ertz’s completion rate.
6. What to Watch on Defense
It’s a four man front and from what I saw, not a lot of stunting and things like that, but the defensive line is simply very good and they get great push on the offensive line. Granted, WVU is breaking in a new left tackle, but it appears that K-State is just going to man you up. Without a real play fake, the linebackers are sitting right on that first down marker looking to make sure that K-State doesn’ t make that first down.
This is pretty interesting as K-State is loaded up on the weakside of the offensive line, opposite the running back. The idea here is that if the running back goes out in the flat, there’s more than likely going to be a defensive end or linebacker with a pretty free hit on the quarterback. I really like this and with the zone coverage there’s a risk that the receivers find an open pocket, but K-State is betting that they get to the quarterback before anyone gets open.
Elijah Lee (6-3/228) is the difference maker here, he makes 15.3% of his team’s tackles, has 3.5 tackles for loss and he’s simply a terrific player that makes a lot of tackles. And try this on for size, Charmeachealle Moore is probably the other linebacker that will play a ton, that’s a heck of a first name.
The defensive line is the strength of the team is the line, particularly the defensive ends, DE Jordan Willis (6-5/258) has 5.5 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks and he’ll put a ton of pressure on whoever plays quarterback, along with Tanner Wood (6-5/263) who has 4 tackles for a loss and a sack. Will Geary (6-0/298) is another difference maker on the line.
Dante Barnett (6-1/194) and Duke Shelley (5-9/175) are your two primary playmakers in the defensive backfield. Barnett has 15 tackles thus far, while Shelley has 14. D.J. Reed (5-9/188) has 3 pass break-ups thus far. I’m guessing that Shelley and Reed are the two cornerbacks and they are both 5’9″. If you wanted an advantage, that’s a good place to start.
The line did eventually come out and it opened with K-State favored by 9 with it fluctuating to 7.5 earlier in the week and now, hte majority of the books have it at 8 points. I think this is a closer game than 8 points, but history says otherwise. At Kansas State in 2014, Texas Tech loses 45-13 (I think this was the very famous Baker Mayfield “attempted” tackle) in 2014, losing 49-26 in 2013, losing 55-24 in 2012 and losing 41-34 in 2011. Last year’s win broke a four game winning streak for Kansas State. I think there are some things that play favorably for Texas Tech most notably the size of the Kansas State cornerbacks and Shimonek’s ability to get the ball out quickly. I’ll take those points (I think I’m doing this correctly) for Texas Tech and I think it’s a gme of field goals.